In 1892, a group of six men and one woman met at a secluded place in the wild north hills of the San Fernando Valley. It was Hallows’ Eve, a night chosen for its occult potential, and the septet intended to raise powerful spirits. They convened at midnight in an oak grove, a place sacred to both the native people who’d made the lush valley their home for centuries, and the ancestors of those who’d been here for only a single generation.
The names of five of the men are well-known to modern residents of the area: Henry Chandler; Griffith Jenkins Griffith; Henry Huntington; James Boon Lankershim; and William Mulholland. At 24, Chandler – a burgeoning newspaper and real estate tycoon – was the youngest; Mulholland was 37; Griffith, Huntington, and Lankershim were all 42.
But there was one older – far older – in the circle.
Talawiyashwit was a shaman with the local Tongva tribe. A powerful shaman, who’d nonetheless been unable to keep his people safe from the invaders who came from Mexico, Spain, Europe, America. Talawiyashwit’s magic had kept him alive for 316 years; for the last half-century, he’d plotted revenge against the newcomers who had stolen his people’s land.
And there was one woman.
Her name was Petranilla de Feliz. At 46, Petra was the most powerful bruja in California; in 1863, she’d placed a curse on 5,000 acres of land that had been stolen from her, and nothing had grown or thrived there for 30 years. When Griffith J. Griffith had acquired the land cheap, he’d tracked Petranilla down in an effort to reverse the curse; she’d been unable to do so (or at least that’s what she’d told him), but had agreed to help him and the four other men gain the power and wealth they sought. It had been Petranilla who had enlisted Talawiyashwit.
Petranilla had chosen the time and place. Chandler, Griffith, Huntington, Lankershim, and Mulholland had all agreed, anxious to increase their grasp on this ever-more-profitable land. And so it was that they found themselves gathered together on October 31st, awaiting midnight, when Petranilla and Talawiyashwit would call forth the divine spirits that would grant them their dreams.
But what the five men didn’t know was that Petranilla and Talawiyashwit had another plan: they weren’t interested in power or riches. What they sought was revenge, against these same men who had enlisted them. Revenge, for the way of life that had been stolen from their respective clans – first Talawiyashwit’s, then Petranilla’s.
At midnight, the bruja and the shaman completed arcane rituals that called forth old gods – gods that demanded sacrifice. As Petranilla and Talawiyashwit turned to the five men, however, they were betrayed: one of the men drew a pistol and fired, offering both of their lives as the necessary tribute.
The five men fled. They soon found the ritual had succeeded, as their fame and wealth grew, and their names became parts of the very landscape.
But that place where the ritual had been held, and the terrible betrayal taken place…that place was cursed. The primeval oak grove withered, the tree limbs bent in strange shapes. When farmers finally tore out the oaks and tried to plant citrus trees, the fruit grew in disturbing shapes and bore a noxious odor.
The name of the street that ran past the former oak grove was a joke: Griffith, always the prankster, had referred to their group of seven as “The Septo”, and when it came time for Lankershim to supply a name for the newly-graded street, he’d dubbed it Septo Avenue. Eventually the land became a literal place of the dead.
Thus, the Septo Cemetery was born…or, perhaps, miscarried, as it was a cursed place from the beginning. There were terrible rumors from those who lived nearby that things didn’t always stay buried there. Three caretakers had suffered breakdowns; one had killed his family and then himself, right in the middle of the graveyard.
But it wasn’t just dead things that were affected: plants and animals took on horrible new forms there, especially spiders. In 1992, a drunken teenager was found half-dead near the cemetery early one October morning, and he claimed to have been attacked by a “spider the size of a jeep.” Another boy had vandalized a corner of the cemetery known as “Restful Gardens”; he’d replaced the sign with one that read “Hauntington Gardens”, unaware of how he was parodying the name of one of the five men responsible for the accursed place.
The cemetery has been closed for many years, but no one would dare to move it, despite the value of the land. It’s said that each October the cemetery comes to unholy life; those foolish enough to enter around the 31st may encounter the spirit of Petranilla, still calling down malediction from beyond the grave.
Every Halloween, a few foolhardy explorers enter the cemetery; and every November 1st, not all of them return…or at least not whole.